Schools across the country are announcing their intent to open up this fall, and athletics directors and conference commissioners are putting the most optimistic face they can toward the idea of an as-scheduled 2020 college football season. But, clearly, no one can sit here and guarantee that college football will be played this fall.
But we can pretty much guarantee that the NFL will play this fall. If the NBA and MLB don't find a path to return to play, NFL owners will break out their machetes and cut their own path. Even if it's played without fans. Even if it's played on the moon. Unless Anthony Fauci or his equivalent specifically bars the NFL from playing this fall -- which... good luck with that -- the NFL is playing.
Which could present the NFL with an opportunity.
According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, the NFL league office, in preparing the league's May 9 schedule release, is building the schedule with the opportunity in mind to flex games to Saturday throughout the fall.
It's not clear if the NFL would move one game from Sunday to Saturday or three, which would then give the league eight broadcast windows in a typical weekend:
1. Thursday night
2. Saturday 1 p.m. ET
3. Saturday 4:30 p.m. ET
4. Saturday 8 p.m. ET
5. Sunday 1 p.m. ET
6. Sunday 4:30 p.m. ET
7. Sunday 8 p.m.
8. Monday night
The Post reports the NFL has held "preliminary discussions" with its TV partners about the idea, all of whom would presumably jump at the chance to make up inventory they would lose if the college season can't be played. ESPN in particular would figure to jump at the chance, given the company uses college football to eat innings on six different networks each fall Saturday -- ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the SEC and ACC networks.
The league could likely charge its TV partners a premium to air additional games, and given their (lack of) options, the networks would undoubtedly pay it -- thereby making the NFL even richer than it already is.
Last week's draft drew record ratings, and there's no doubt the NFL would equal or exceed the ratings college games draw on Saturdays, particularly since a world without college football is a world where people are still stuck inside on Saturdays.